DÅÅTH (Industrial/Death Metal)
The Hinderers (3.5/4)- 2007
Quite possibly the best major label debut of the year, Daath’s The Hinderers is an album that can be wholeheartedly recommended to almost any fan of heavy metal. The band mixes a number of different metal subgenres, and their sound is a perfect blend of uniqueness and accessibility. Despite being a death metal band at their core, aspects of industrial and thrash metal cause their sound to become both more accessible and more unique. Metalheads that are tend to avoid the accessible side of the genre should still find a lot to love with The Hinderers, and Daath’s sound is accessible enough to metal fans that aren’t into the extreme or underground. The Hinderers truly has something for any metal fan, and that combined with the music’s exceptionally high quality earns this album a very high recommendation.
Damien Jurado (Folk)
Caught in the Trees (3.5/4)- 2008
Damien Jurado has been one of the most underrated folk musicians for some time, and while Caught in the Trees is a few standout tracks short of being a masterpiece, it's another very good album to go with his other greats. This is an album that strays from Jurado’s usual darkness and subtleties, and instead focuses on simplicity. Caught in the Trees is certainly a simple album, but it’s also one of that could not be done by any other musician. This is not your typical indie folk album, as while beauty and simplicity are its strengths, the way the lyrics compliment the simple instrumentals works in ways that are rarely used in folk. Everything about Caught in the Trees is simple, except how it comes together, and it’s album that any fan of folk or indie music should pick up.
Dark Tranquillity (Melodic Death Metal)
Character (3.5/4)- 2005
Character is one of Dark Tranquillity’s finest moments. It’s one of the more accessible albums in their catalogue, as well as one of the strongest lyrical albums in the melodeath genre. Mikael Stanne continues to show why he’s one of metal’s elite growlers, and the band’s trademark blend of death metal and melodic neo-classic elements are in full effect. There are a few filler tracks, but that’s more than made up for by the incredible “Lost to Apathy,” a song that is easily one of the best of the last decade.
Fiction (4/4)- 2007
It’s a shame that only metal fans will be able to appreciate the latest Dark Tranquillity album. Regardless of genre, this is one of the best albums of the year. Although it’s unrealistic to expect anyone who isn’t already a fan of metal to enjoy an album as heavy as Fiction, it’s too good to recommend to fans of a specific style. In terms of quality, Fiction is an album that deserved to be appreciated by all fans of music. The incredible vocals combined with the sometimes soothing and often brutal instrumentals are a wonder to behold, and no other album 2007 album mixes heaviness and beauty quite like Dark Tranquillity does on Fiction. It’s simply superb from start to finish, and all metal fans should experience it. This is one of the best albums of the year, and it could easily be called the absolute best album released in 2007.
David Byrne & Brian Eno (Pop/Alternative)
Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (3/4)- 2008
The collaboration album between David Byrne and Brian Eno is a vastly different one than some might expect. In actuality, its weirdness is what makes it such a great listen, and Bryne’s willingness to experiment and go in odd directions is part of what made Talking Heads great. Everything That Happens Will Happen Today is somewhat of an upbeat alternative gospel album that is every bit as strange as it sounds. The album’s brilliance comes from its experimentation and pure oddity, and it’s certainly not something for those who don’t understand how being weird can make an album brilliant. However, David Byrne and Brian Eno are two vastly imaginative musicians who know weird and no how to be truly unique and brilliant within their weirdness. For fans of the artists, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today makes a great listen.
Daylight Dies (Doom Metal)
Lost to the Living (3.5/4)- 2008
Daylight Dies is an immensely talented doom metal band that have shown a great deal of potential. Lost to the Living is an example of what this band is capable of doing while at the top of their game. This is a very original melodic doom album that captivates the listener in more ways than one. It’s full of beautiful melodies and brutal riffs, and the combination of the two is simply stunning. Lost to the Living is an album that shows both the talent and emotion of Daylight Dies, and in a year filled with great doom metal albums, this stands out as one of the best. If you’re looking for either a great doom metal album or just an emotional and melodic work of art, Lost to the Living is the album for you.
Dead Confederate (Alternative/Hard Rock)
Wrecking Ball (3.5/4)- 2008
Dead Confederate is a band that exemplifies the greatness of rock music. Yes, the band is more associated with alternative and indie than mainstream and hard rock, but that has more to do with the indie community’s appreciation for new and artistic sounds than the actual sound of Dead Confederate. There is a heavier grunge influence here than just about any post-grunge album released in the last decade, yet this isn’t a grunge album in the slightest. Wrecking Ball is raw, gritty, and full of passion, something that pure rock music has been deeply lacking in recent years. The album also contains a far share of ballads, none of which feel forced or out of place in the album’s context. Wrecking Ball is one of my personal favorite albums of 2008, and while some filler keeps from being 4 star quality from an objective standpoint, I love this album to death, and I highly recommend it.
Dead Congregation (Death Metal)
Grave of the Archangels (3/4)- 2008
Dead Congregation is old-school death metal in its purest form. Grave of the Archangels is as heavy and brutal of an album as you’ll find, and it’s one with very few flaws. The band clearly borrows from classic death bands like Morbid Angel and Incarnation, but considering that this is a debut album that masterfully recreates the pure brutality often lost in modern death metal, it’s really more of a good than a bad. There are also some moments of atmospheric experimentation that only add to the darkness of the music. From start to finish, Grave of the Archangels is classic death metal at its finest. This is a great album for fans of old-school death metal, and anyone looking for a truly brutal experience will find it here.
Death (Death Metal)
Symbolic (4/4)- 1995
Words cannot adequately express just how incredible Symbolic really is. To call it the greatest heavy metal album ever released would not at all be an exaggeration, and from a critical perspective I don’t think I could name even a handful of albums better than this one. The songwriting is at the absolute highest level imaginable, as the seamless combination of some of the most brutal music released at the time is seamlessly combined with a progressive sound that would influence just about every prog metal from then on. The technicality of the music is just as extraordinary, starting with but not limited to frontman Chuck Schuldiner. His brutal vocals and unbelievable guitar playing peaked with this album, and drummer Gene Hoglan established himself as one metal’s most talented men behind the kit with Symoblic. This is the type of album that broke boundaries and defied musical conventions while creating a new standard for heavy metal. Symoblic is simply one of the greatest albums ever made, and it belongs in the collection of every music fan.
Deftones (Alternative/Hard Rock)
White Pony (2.5/4)- 2000
White Pony is far and away the most ambitious Deftones album, and it’s also as close as they’ve come to putting together a quality album. It’s far better than the average mainstream rock album, but much of that comes from the ambition that is rarely executed to its fullest. This is a great starting point for fans of alternative rock that are branch out into more experimental or progressive subgenres, but anyone who has already moved past the mainstream will likely find themselves bored.
Destroyer (Indie Rock/Pop)
Trouble in Dreams (2.5/4)- 2008
When listening to an album like Trouble in Dreams, it's hard not to fall in love with the music you're hearing. Dan Bejar's brand of beautiful yet silly indie rock incorporates everything from chamber pop to hard rock and manages to be intelligent without taking anything seriously. The music here is not only fun, but also somewhat moving, and it makes for a great listen. The problem is that if you've heard Destroyer's previous work, you've already heard this beautiful album, and chances are, you've heard it done slightly better. Essentially, the music on Trouble in Dreams is outstanding, but it's the same outstanding music we've heard from Bejar time and time again. It's still enjoyable, but there's nothing here to set Trouble in Dreams apart from every other Destroyer album. It's still worth listening to, especially for newcomers to Bejar's solo work, but anyone looking for more than a small amount of progression will almost certainly be disappointed.
Dethklok (Death Metal)
The Dethalbum (3.5/4)- 2007
On top of being one of the most brilliant comedies of the year, The Dethalbum is an outstanding death metal release. Cartoon band Dethklok (as seen on Adult Swim’s Metalocolypse) may have been created strictly for the purpose of humor, but it’s really quite amazing what Brandon Small and Gene Hoglan (the actual personnel behind the album) have accomplished. The actual death metal that Dethklok performs is certainly of great quality, and it’s also accessible on top of that. You don’t have to be a fan of extreme metal to enjoy The Dethalbum, but it doesn’t hurt if you are. This is easily the most accessible death metal albums ever released, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to call it one of the best either. Even if the music isn’t your thing, the humor in the lyrics is top notch, and it’s as fun as death metal gets. In fact, this is as fun metal or even music gets.
The Dethalbum II (3.5/4)- 2009
Some of the novelty of the first Dethalbum has worn off, so it’s a good thing that the sequel’s music is at such a high level. Gene Hoglan is still a beast behind the kit, and Brandon Small has become a solid vocalist in his own right. It’s still hilarious, and the music is just as good as any other modern death metal album.
The Last Kind Words (2.5/4)- 2007
The Last Kind Words is an album for DevilDriver fans. That may seem obvious, but DevilDriver has done an exceptional job of creating an album full of everything their fan base loves about the band. From a musical stand point, it’s not outstanding, but it’s clear that the point of the album was to please their fans, not craft a masterpiece. DevilDriver is very good at what they do, and they do what they do a lot on this album. Fans of metalcore and/or groove metal should get a lot out of The Last Kind Words, but it’s doubtful that anyone who isn’t already convinced will find much to like here. However, this is a highly recommended album for fans of the band and genre, and if you’re a newer metal fan looking to get into something heavier, The Last Kind Words may be a good place to start.
Devin Townsend (Progressive Rock/Metal)
Ziltoid the Omniscient (3.5/4)- 2007
Ziltoid is a must buy for anyone looking for a concept album that’s as epic as it is humorous, and it’s also well worth getting for anyone who thinks progressive music is always serious and boring. Not enough can be said about the genius that is Devin Townsend. With Ziltoid, he reminds us that he’s not only one of the most creative musicians in the history of metal, but also one of the funniest men in music today. In less than an hour, Ziltoid has more hilarious moments than almost all comedic films released in 2007, and compared to other albums, its humor is up there with the best of Weird Al Yankovic and Stephen Lynch. If you’re looking for something that will make you laugh until it hurts, you can’t go wrong with Ziltoid. As disappointing as it is that Strapping Young Lad and the Devin Townsend Band are on hiatus, it’s hard to complain when Devin Townsend continues to release brilliant progressive epics like this one.
Liar & A Thief (3/4)- 2010
Diabolic was first introduced to hip-hop fans through battling in the New York underground and appearing as a guest on Immortal Technique’s Revolutionary, Vol. 1. It’s been nine years since that album, and Diabolic’s debut is now here. There are few surprises, butLiar & a Thief is a solid hardcore rap album, heavy on both violent and political lyrics. Diabolic’s braggadocios rhymes are appropriately violent and profane, as one would expect from hardcore hip-hop, and the tracks where he focuses his lyrics more towards that nature are far more entertaining than the political songs. The aforementioned Immortal Technique (who also guests on the outstanding “Frontlines”) has been doing this kind of political rap for years, so it’s unfortunate that Diabolic’s political lyrics are far too similar to what Tech has been releasing for some time now. There’s really nothing new or particularly insightful here, and as such the politically charged moments are mostly boring. Regardless, Diabolic is a solid emcee who knows how to battle, and that comes through on Liar & A Thief. If you like hardcore hip-hop, chances are you’ll enjoy this one.
Dimension Zero (Melodic Death Metal)
He Who Shall Not Bleed (2.5/4)- 2007
He Who Shall Not Bleed is an album only for melodic death metal fans. If you’re not a huge fan of the genre, you have no business getting an album that could only be called above average for the genre. That being Dimension Zero is not a bad band, and He Who Shall Not Bleed is not a bad album. If you don’t expect anything too unique, it’s worth a listen. This is an album that contains some fairly high quality melodic death metal, and if that’s what you want, that’s what you’re going to get. Just make sure you already own the new Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquillity, and The Absence albums before getting this one.
Dimmu Borgir (Symphonic Black Metal)
In Sorte Diaboli (3/4)- 2007
Dimmu Borgir is easily the most accessible black metal band on the planet. Fans of black metal may not think much of them, but for those looking to get into heavier styles of metal, it’s hard to imagine a better starting point. In Sorte Diabli is an accessible album that incorporates elements from both black and symphonic metal, although the album is probably best enjoyed by those who are looking to get into the genres or are already members of the band’s fan base. Dimmu Borgir’s style is certainly unique, and condensing a genre like black metal into an accessible package is certainly an impressive accomplishment. It’s hard to compare Dimmu Borgir albums to anything but other Dimmu Borgir albums, and it’s probably fans of the band that will get the most out of In Sorte Diabli. Even for those who aren’t already interested in the band, this is a quality album, and you could certainly do a lot worse.
Dir en grey (Hard Rock/Metal)
The Marrow of a Bone (3/4)- 2007
Dir en grey’s inclusion on this list is proof that music can only be evaluated on a case by case basis. 2006’s “Saku” topped my Worst Songs of the Year list last year, and yet Dir en grey has come back to create a worthwhile album that should please both those who disagree my criticism of this band in the past and even those who weren’t as impressed with Dir en grey’s previous work. For better for worse, The Marrow of a Bone is an album unlike anything else released this year, and although a few of songs are remakes that could be called inferior to the original, it marks for Dir en grey’s first great album since changing their style to heavy metal. There’s no doubt that this band is exceptionally talented, and this is the first time they’ve put everything together in a cohesive package. The Marrow of a Bone is a solid and varied album that isn’t spectacular, but should please metal fans who have waited for this band to start living up to their talent.
Disturbed (Hard Rock)
Indestructible (3/4)- 2008
Indestructible is another solid album from Disturbed that sees the band making just enough improvements to sound fresh without changing who they are. This is an album that fans of Disturbed should be pleased with, and it’s easily one of the best mainstream rock albums released in 2008. Some will still fault Disturbed for not being heavy enough or not having enough variety, but it’s pretty clear that Disturbed isn’t concerned with being heavy. They stick to their sound, and within that sound, and they’ve made some solid improvements for this record. Just like their first three albums, Indestructible is front-loaded. Still, the front half of the album is filled with hard-hitting rock songs with surprisingly great lyrics. Indestructible is an album that should please any and all hard rock fans, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the easiest 2008 releases to find in stores.
Doap Nixon (Rap/Hip-Hop)
Soul Diesel (2/4)- 2008
Like most of the other Army of the Pharaohs members, Doap Nixon is a tolerable MC for a verse or two, but he just doesn’t stand out enough to warrant a full album. The mostly uninspired guest spots don’t help much either.
Down (Stoner Rock/Metal)
Down III: Over the Under (3.5/4)- 2007
As unfortunate as it is that Pantera will never be able to record again, fans of heavy metal can rest at least somewhat happy knowing that Down is back. Whether this album is as good as their 1995 debut is something fans of the band have and will likely continue to debate, but the fact that there is a debate to begin with is impressive. Phil Anselmo sounds far better than he has in years, and Pepper Keenan’s melodic riffs are just as trance-inducing as ever. Fans of Down should own this album. Fans of Pantera should own this album. Fans of stoner metal should own this album. Even fans of metal in general should consider owning this album. For the first time in a long time, there’s passion in both Phil Anselmo’s voice and lyrics, and Down is once again living up to their potential.
Thank Me Later (1/4)- 2010
Now I’ve heard it all. I’ve listened to thousands of rap albums since falling in love with hip-hop, but I can say with absolute certainly that I’ve never heard a professional emcee have this much trouble staying on beat. Rhythm is an essential part of rap, and Drake doesn’t have it. Drake’s problems with flow are similar to an amateur just learning to rap. It’s ridiculous that a major recording artist would have trouble staying on beat and actually rhyming. However, this is just one of the many problems with Thank Me Later. The beats are generic mainstream garbage, the singing is handled entirely with repetitive auto-tune, and Drake tries far too hard to sound like a conscious lyricist. He says simple things in complex ways, and his metaphors are often laughable. Please, don’t buy into the hype. Maybe Drake deserves some credit for avoiding the sexist clichés and offensive subject matter popular in mainstream rap these days, but I refuse to believe that hip-hop is in such an awful state that simply not rapping about cars and hoes is enough to justify legitimate praise. There are plenty of underground emcees (and a few mainstream ones for that matter) who avoid those clichés, all of which are better than Drake.
Dream Theater (Progressive Metal)
Systematic Chaos (3/4)- 2007
Systematic Chaos may not be the creative breakthrough that Dream Theater desperately needs, but it should please fans nonetheless. If you’ve heard Dream Theater, you know what to expect, but that doesn’t mean what you’re getting is bad. Systematic Chaos features the same mind blowing musicianship that Dream Theater is known for, and that alone makes it a recommendable listen. Those who are familiar with the band shouldn’t expect anything new, but anyone that hasn’t heard Dream Theater’s legendary musicians should prepare to be blown away.
Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2/4)- 2009
The musicianship is still impressive, but Black Clouds & Silver Linings suffers from a “been there, done that” feel. Dream Theater have entered a phase where their creativity has significantly decreased and they’ve instead focused on ways to show off their technical ability. Systematic Chaos, while still sounding like the same old Dream Theater, at least sounded more polished and technical than their last few, but it’s getting harder to defend the band’s pretentious sound and lack of evolution.
Dropkick Murphys (Punk Rock)
The Meanest of Times (3/4)- 2007
Although an album by a Celtic punk band from Boston may seem like an odd recommendation for mainstream rock fans, Dropkick Murphys’ The Meanest of Times is exactly what a rock album should be. The band is as energized as ever, as well as more consistent than they’ve been in the past. More than anything, however, it’s just a good time. If you’re looking for simply a good fun rock album, look no farther. The Meanest of Times is one of the most fun albums released in 2007, and it’s a great punk album as well. It’s an essential album for the fans of the band, and punk fans looking for something new should give this a look as well.